Stranger 39, Day 39 – Meet Megan, the “Planner and People Gatherer”

Stranger 39, Day 39 - Meet Megan

So I’ve spent the last couple days at a trade show/ conference. It’s been fun meeting all sorts of people, especially the vendors around me. One of the people working a booth across from my company’s is a super friendly woman. We’ve been joking back and forth quite a bit between conference sessions and speaking to attendees as they inquire about my company’s product and services.

The woman across the way is great — smart, energetic, and she can dish out the jokes almost as much as I can. Okay, maybe not as much — I’m probably too wound up for really anyone to catch up. In any case, she’s been fantastic to be booth neighbors, so I wanted to get to know her.

Meet Megan, 33

Who are you?

“That’s a complicated question… right off the bat!”

“I am a daughter and a sister first. I am a dog lover. I am a rabid Ohio State fan. I am an event manager — by trade, by character, by everything. So my neuroses and anal retentiveness come in handy — I get paid for it. I am a person who tries to make everyone’s experience better.”

What are your passions? Is it event planning? Making people’s experiences better? What are your passions?

“I would say… not that I am two different people. At my core, my passions are the people I love and care about. They are number one no matter what. I will do just about anything for them. But event management is definitely a passion of mine.”

“I joined [her company] at the time there was a lot of  growth opportunity for them and their event portfolio and how we were approaching events. over the years, I’ve seen it grow in leaps in bounds. I get real totally geeked out by it. I love it. At it’s core, we’re bringing people together; so it’s really cool to be the one to facilitate that. On top of it, to make sure it’s an awesome experience for them. That they leave thinking it was a valuable time. It’s not that they go and buy my product or anything like that… it’s just that they had a really good time, and got what they came for.”

What is the key to running a great event?

“Thinking of the other person. A lot of people plan events and even sessions at conferences with, ‘what do I want to tell people? What do I want out of this?’ If you do that, it’s going to be fairly evident and self-serving. So if you put yourself in the participants’ shoes, why are they coming? What’s going to make it valuable for them? What could you do to go above and beyond so these little things that they’re going to notice that are going to go to advance their experience. You put yourself in their shoes — that’s the first step to success. You do that, you’re using the right guiding principles.”

What’s another guiding principle of yours, or like a Life Lesson?

“Life Lessons… I used to have a saying that I lived by that. It’s definitely not mind, but ‘in the end, it’s okay. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end’ or something probably much more poetic than that, but that’s the gist of it. Having grown up a little bit since I adopted that, I think I’ve realized that there’s not ‘the end’. There’s no finite end to anything… till there is, and then… you’re done.” She laughs.

I ask her what about these books, I’m reading. They seem to have ends. She laughs. “Those have ends.”

“I think my guiding principles, is to just do me. Do my best. Again, try to leave every place or every person a little bit better than when I came. Do what I can.”

So we last spent the last day across from each other [at the conference we’re at], what is that one thing, that one impression you want me to have of you?

Megan mentions how I’ve seen her “adorable dog” from her desktop background (and her foot was in the picture, too) — “your life is instantly better.”

Then, she mentions how she got me a demo and introduction with one of the Principals at her company. So she’s already done what she’s passionate about — bringing people together. “I facilitated a connection.”

Megan continues, “Make you stop the next time you go into an event.” I will definitely ask myself, “WWMD — What Would Megan Do?”

Do you have any Dreams? If so, what are they?

“I don’t know if I have any dreams in the sense of, ‘I want to be an astronaut when I grow up’ or anything like that. I don’t think I’m a grown-up, yet, 100%. I don’t know if you ever ultimately are, but I would just like to (this is real cheesy), I just want to be happy. I don’t need a million dollars. I want to love what I do, and believe in what I do. I want to be with people that I love and cherish. And eating is good, too, so… that one minor detail… above and beyond… doing what I love. My degree is about event management. I’m not going anywhere else! So, I’m fortunate in that regard. I have an amazing family, and not even just my mom, and my brother, and my dad, but… there’s about 100 of us that get together every other year, so I’m very close to 100 of them, and I’m incredibly fortunate because of that. I think I’m in a good place. I just want to keep growing myself, and challenge myself in that way. But I don’t think there’s this utopia that I’m working towards or anything like that.”

So what’s another way that you challenge yourself?

A lot of stuff going on at work is challenging, not that the work in and of itself is challenging, but I’m challenging myself to grow and do different things there. I also, similar to your project you’re doing here, I challenge myself to do what I call ‘the 12 for 12’. So it’s similarity in the name, but one philanthropic something per month for a year. I’ve done this before, and it can be something, ‘I’m on a committee to plan a charity event’, so it can be something as involved as that. Or in Chicago in the winter time, there’s a lot of homeless people. I buy McDonalds gift certificates and hand those out. It can be something big and involved, something very small, and just, again, try to make a difference. Do something that it’s not about me. And having to think and come up with 12 things to do, one let’s you know all of these amazing causes that are out there. But also, it brings you down a little bit. Reminds you that life is good, and that there are other people who could use your help a little bit. It’s important to take time out of your busy work, your busy life, and kind of give back to the greater good, or the greater world out there.”

One of the challenges I think about when giving back is that there’s so much to do. There’s so much help that is needed. Where do you find that line to say today’s enough? Where do you define that line to say this is enough? At what point is handing out McDonald’s gift cards… you just handed out 12. Why not 15 or 10?

“I think part of it is that there is no end, so you just keep doing good. It’s not like at the end of this year, ‘alright, never going to do anything good for anybody else, so I’m good with my life.’ But I just kind of approach it, giving of yourself doesn’t mean giving up yourself. So if it starts to be too much of a sacrifice on me where my work is being neglected. My family and friends are being neglected… and I mean truly neglected, not ‘sorry, I can’t hang out with you because I’m doing something else’. I think that’s when you have to take a look at your priorities, and if you’re okay with that, then maybe you just shift things. And I am that person that I don’t want to win the lottery because I won’t know what to do with the money. I’d be so crippled by who to help, and how much. That would be a burden to me. Spend $50 McDonalds gift cards, I’ll buy 10 $5 ones. Done. So I approach it very tactically just because otherwise, if you purchase too emotionally, there will be no end.”

So this is a great transition and segue into the Stranger’s question from yesterday… You have 10 grand. You can’t keep it. Who or what do you give it to, and why? You’ve got to do it in 24 hours.

“I would give…” She thinks about this for a while.

“I would break it up, and not give it all to one place or one person. I would give some of it to my brother. He is a journalist, and in the days of the inter-webs and everything connected. He held true to his morals and refused to write for anything except for a newspaper. He felt that was the one place he could be truly unbiased and could be a sports journalist and not write op-eds and opinion pieces or things like that. Because of that, journalists don’t make a ton of money, but I’m proud of him because he’s held true to his convictions even though it comes at a price.”

“I would donate money to a breast cancer organization. I have, unfortunately, many people in my life affected by breast cancer, specifically. So that’s why I would choose that instead of the American Cancer Society that is bigger and more generic.”

“I would also donate some money to some sort of animal rescue just because I’m a softy when it comes to stuff like that.”

“I would give money to an Alzheimer’s foundation.” I ask her how she would break out $10K across all the orgs.

“I would break it up. Maybe a $1000 to each of the organizations or something. Some fair split.”

“And the last one would be a domestic violence fund.” I ask her why.

Megan responds, “Alzheimer’s… my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and it’s one of the saddest things to witness. Some days she would know exactly who she was, where she was, who you were, and other days, she’d be terrified — she had no idea what was around her. And then there were some days where she would say she was going to have lunch with the Clintons. Never happened, but sure why not? If that’s your world right now or not. It was awful. My grandfather… it tore him apart. Watching… you try to separate the disease from the person, but when you walk in and your own mother doesn’t recognize you, that hurts. So it’s an awful, awful thing for everyone involved to go through.” (Thanks to Erik, Stranger 38)

“Domestic violence… I am actually a victim of domestic violence in college. Since then, just working to… it’s a lot of stuff that’s being talked about right now — just rape culture. With the Standford rape case that happened… everyone thinks that rape is forcible sex by some creepy stranger who jumps on you from the alley. Most of the time, it’s not. So educating people, making it okay for victims to come forward. It sounds a little cliche because so many people are saying it. But they’re saying it because it’s true. You can walk around naked, and that does not give people the right to do things. That you did not consent to. So just really educating people on what domestic violence is. What is okay, and what is not okay. As a victim, what your rights are. How to protect yourself. Things like that. I think a lot of people chalk it up to locker room talk, or boys will be boys in college. Or girls were drunk at a sorority party, that’s just what happens. That’s not. And it’s also not only attractive 21-year-olds this happens to… women and men of every age, race, demographic out there. So once people start really start looking at the root cause, and what’s going on there, that’s where you start solving that problem. So there’s a lot of work to do there.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is the one defining moment in your life?” — Perfect! This is a common question I like to ask Strangers anyways.

After the handshake.

It was great to meet Megan on a deeper level other than play catch with our stress ball give-aways. We’ve gotten along well as booth neighbors, and we’ve been helping each other out with people as they walk by — pulling and pushing people between our booths. Sometimes literally… ha.

Anyways, I got a better understanding of her role at her company, but also why she’s both doing it and successful at it. Her passion is about the people and creating great experiences for people. Her role as an events marketing manager at her company fits her well. Even as she talks about the money she’d give away to the different organizations and people (the answer to Erik’s question, yesterday’s Stranger) highlights the people who influence her and how she wants to support those close to her. Even then, she wants to split the money between entities — to be able to provide EACH person or organization with some value and greater opportunity than before her. I could see why she’s a people person and why she does what she does. It’s all rooted in the people actually closest to her and how they’ve influenced her life.

Meet Megan. No longer a Stranger.

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